A million dollars will be handed out at the end of this week to the winner of the Aon Risk Reward Challenge. The current leader, Carlota Ciganda, is not in the field at the TOTO Japan Classic.
The field for the CME Group Tour Championship will also be solidified when play concludes in Japan. Four players have an opportunity to play their way in to the field at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Florida.
The Aon Risk Reward Challenge Hopefuls
Ariya Jutanguarn and In-Kyung Kim are the final two contenders who can catch Ciganda. Jutanugarn needs to record two eagles, while Kim needs an eagle and a double eagle. While there’s no cut at the TOTO Japan Classic, players in this chase face an additional degree of difficulty. Instead of the usual four opportunities to score, the event is only three rounds with only two scores counting toward the Aon Risk Reward Challenge.
However, Jutanugarn has recorded a record 21 eagles in 27 events this season. The previous record was 19 set by Dame Laura Davies in 2004. Four of Jutanugarn’s eagles have come on AON Risk Reward par-5s. She recorded one on the 15th at the HUGEL-AIR Premia LA Open, two on the 14th at the CP Women’s Open, and one at the 17th at the Volunteers of America Classic. For Jutanugarn to pass Ciganda, she’ll have to repeat her CP Women’s Open performance with two eagles.
If anyone on the LPGA Tour were to do that, it’d be the Thai native. Jutanguarn’s been at her best on par 5s, with a -0.967-scoring average on the Aon Risk Reward par 5s this season. She leads the LPGA Tour with 21 eagles, the all-time LPGA Tour record.
Kim faces a far steeper climb. She has two eagles on the season, one at the par 4 10th at the HUGEL-AIR PREMIA LA Open and one at the par 5 6th at the Volunteers of America Classic. Kim needs to join Jimin Kang and Bronte Law as players recording double eagles this season to get to Naples. Kang and Law both recorded the rare albatross at the 2019 Shoprite LPGA Classic presented by Acer, with Kang making a 2 on the par-5 3rd hole and Law holing her second shot on the par-5 Aon Risk Reward 9th hole.
The Race to CME Globe Spots Up for Grabs
The top 60 players and ties get into the field at the CME Group Tour Championship. There are four players this week who are currently outside the top 60 in the Race to CME Globe points. That means players who are 56th and above in Race to CME Globe points have locked their spots in the field at Tiburon Golf Club.
Stacy Lewis sits in 60th place. But Lewis announced shortly after the Solheim Cup in September that she was stepping away from the LPGA for the rest of the 2019 season to heal a rib injury. If Lewis remains in the top 60 and opts to not play, she will be replaced in the CME Group Tour Championship field.
Kim is also battling for position. She moved to 65th from 71st last week with a T8 finish at the Taiwan Swinging Skirts presented by CTBC. In order to match or pass Lewis, Kim needs to finish T23 or better in Japan. The good news for Kim is that in her last seven career starts at the TOTO Japan Classic, she’s finished T23 or better four times, including three top 10s. She’s played at Seta Golf Club once, in 2018, where she finished T8.
Pornanong Phatlum trails Lewis by 90 points. She has to finish T7 or better to play in Naples, Fla. She’s done that twice before in seven starts at the TOTO Japan Classic, in 2015 and 2016.
Gerina Piller has to finish T3 or better to crack the top-60. She is making her first career start at the TOTO Japan Classic this week. Piller will have to post her best result of the season to get to Naples, but has two top 10s this season, a T5 at the U.S. Women’s Open, and T8 at the Volunteers of America Classic.
Mel Reid is 234 points behind, needing a T2 or better result to catch Lewis. It’d require a career best finish. Reid finished T3 earlier this year at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. If Reid sets a new career mark, she’d earn her way into the CME Group Tour Championship for the first time in her career.